Struggling as a Neurodivergent Student at UIS? Here’s Why!


A student standing with belongings in front of math problems. | Photo Credit: Pixabay License

So, you have made it this far into another semester and once again feel overwhelmed by responsibilities despite all your efforts to manage your time the best that you possibly can. It seems that no matter how many times you swear “this time will be different,” you always end up here anyway- on the verge of giving up. Why does this keep happening?

Well, just be comforted by the fact that it is not your fault. No matter where you lie on the scale of neurodiversity- or even if you do not and are just having a particularly rough time this semester – just know that you are not lazy or “broken” in any way. These things just happen.

The first thing to know when going through any semester is knowing the conditions in which to thrive. It really helps when professors make use of their Canvas pages. I personally love seeing updated grades, weekly modules, and assignments on the course calendar weeks in advance.

My mind also loves when as many dots are connected as possible. When a professor’s lectures do not match or prep us for upcoming assignments, that can lead minds like mine to feel like we are taking an extra course because of all the work we still are responsible for doing on our own.

Although there is an Office of Disabilities here at UIS, there are still accommodations that neurodivergent students might have at other institutions that we do not have here. Neurodivergent-specific academic coaching would take the stress of being your own accountability coach from students. These coaches would be responsible for working with students who have trouble with time and workload management using study skills and resources that specifically have neurodivergent students in mind.

Some universities make use of a reduced course load- meaning that students can take less than the required number of credits while still being considered full-time students. This would definitely help those who struggle with workload manage themselves better.

Neurodivergent students at UIS have to help themselves more than anything if they really want to succeed. Of course, if you have a diagnosis, I recommend being registered with the Office of Disabilities to make sure that you are getting all the help you can get – but it does not stop there. Some things that I found have helped me over the last academic year:

Making appointments with The Learning Hub to keep me on task with projects. One huge accommodation that helps neurodivergent students is having modified due dates on big projects. I need a due date for an outline, a due date for a rough draft, and another due date for a revised draft before turning in the final product. You can come up with these dates on your own- but having an outside party to check in with will help create a sense of urgency with those due dates.

Using audiobooks and auto-transcriptions as a companion to your course readings. Reading text is hard. Especially when you are reading a lot of it in one week. Be sure to make use of the CloudLibrary available through the Brookens website when looking for how to access readings for your classes. If the professor provides a PDF text, highlight the text, and use text-to-voice services to have it be read out loud. Trust me, it is so much easier to process words when you can see them and hear them at the same time.

I advise that neurodivergent students keep a bullet journal- but for the love of God- please do not worry about it being organized! You do not need colorful gel pens and stickers for this- just simply keep the journal on you to make note of anything and everything. It is okay if there is no rhyme or reason to it!

And lastly, always ask for extensions on assignments! Be honest with your professors and let them know your circumstances. Most of the time they are happy to accommodate.